Traveling with our canine companion and going on adventures with them are some of the highlights of pet ownership. While dogs may be your best adventure partners, not all of them may enjoy the journey to get there. By planning ahead and preparing for their safety in advance, we can make sure that the journey is smooth and comfortable for everyone involved.
Preparing for the Trip
- Training and desensitization
Travel socialization and desensitization is a crucial aspect of puppy raising and training. The process of getting a pup acclimatized to traveling should be started during the early days of puppyhood. However, if you have a longer trip coming up, make sure to start preparing your pup for it in terms of crate training, moving vehicle, noisy streets etc.
- The power of positive association
One of the primary ways dogs learn is through forming associations. Combining rewards like treats, games or a positive experience like a play session in the park after car rides will help in forming positive association and make travel far more enjoyable for your pup.
Choosing the Right Gear
- Dog seat belt – A seat belt is a crucial safety accessory to secure your dog in place and prevent unnecessary movements and injuries. One of the most important functions of a dog seat belt is to save your pet from car airbags in cases of minor or major accidents. The airbags are strictly meant for human safety.
- Dog travel Harness – Dog travel harnesses are designed and tested to meet safety standards for travel. They have multiple attachment points which help in keeping the dog safely restrained. Some of these harnesses come with little sections and pockets to hold doggy essentials like poop bags, water bowl, treats etc.
- Car seat – A smaller moving around in a moving vehicle can be highly distracting to the driver and dangerous for everyone involved. Booster seats are excellent to secure smaller dogs in place and prevent unnecessary movements and potential injuries. Here’s a quick guide on how to choose a dog car seat.
- Travel dog bed – Travel dog beds may be an optional but a super comfortable addition especially for long distance travels. They work great for senior dogs and dogs with mobility issues. If your dog associates the bed with rest and sleep at home, it will help them settle down faster on it during travel. If your dog has a tendency to get cold, carry a dog blanket.
- Travel crate – Crates are especially useful in managing stress and anxiety because the confinement that they provide prevent unnecessary movements and potential injuries. Crates can be all the more comforting if your dog has been trained it to perceive it as a safe haven.
Safety tips On the Road
- Dealing with motion sickness
Moving vehicles are known to cause sensory conflict in dogs, which is usually the primary trigger of nausea and vomiting in dogs. Gradual exposure to moving vehicles, traveling on an empty stomach, ample ventilation, medications, etc. are some ways to reduce motion sickness.
- Reducing anxiety
Motion sickness in moving vehicles and the anticipation of it can be highly stressful for dogs. Building positive association with travel and moving vehicles is key. Include rewards like treats, toys, verbal appreciation etc. Ending short commutes with delightful experiences like a play session in the park or the beach also help in creating positive associations with travel.
- Securing the dog in place
This is one of the most important pointers to remember while ensuring travel safety for dogs. Unlike us, dogs are unable to pre-empt twists and turns on the road and adjust themselves accordingly. This may lead to erratic movements, potential injuries and also anxiety. Make sure to secure your dog with appropriate seat belts, crate or booster seat to ensure optimum safety.
- Travel essentials
Travel safety essentials such as first aid kits, travel harness, medication, comfort items etc. may not always be required on every trip, but are good to have handy. Remember to customize your travel essentials list based on your nature of travel, dog’s health and needs.
- Avoid leaving them unattended
Leaving a dog alone in a stationery car has countless risks. Some of them being suffering a heat stroke in an overheated car, theft, injury, escape and so on. Dogs may even get stressed or anxious when left alone in an unfamiliar environment, which may in turn affect their physical and/or mental health.
- Microchipping and other ID tags
An ID tag with updated information and contact details is a crucial dog collar accessory, regardless of where you are with your dog. Microchipping goes one step further in terms of ensuring safety for your dog. It is a permanent form of identification that is implanted under the skin of the dog.
- Taking regular breaks
Long distance travel can be daunting for several dogs because of the constant movement and twists and turns. Prolonged exposure to a moving vehicle without ample breaks may cause nausea and vomiting in some dogs. Frequent breaks smoothen out long distance travels, encourages positive human-canine interaction, allows dogs to adjust to weather and temperature changes, prevents motion sickness and reduces stress.
Let’s talk about the importance and types of activity breaks for dogs.
- Water breaks
Several dogs avoid eating and drinking in moving vehicles for a variety of reasons. However, lack of hydration during travel may cause problems like over heating, dehydration, vomiting, etc. Regular water breaks is crucial, especially during long distance travel in order to ensure good physiological health. Make sure to provide access to fresh water at all times.
- Sniffing and fresh air breaks
Travel can be a cause of anxiety for several dogs. Thus, during longer drives, it is highly recommended to stop for fresh air and allow your dog to sniff and explore. Such breaks provide them with plenty of physical and mental stimulation and prevent stiffness and discomfort associated with long distance travels.
- Pee and poop breaks
Unless you’re an expert at dog body language, it may be difficult for your dog to explicitly express the need to relieve themselves in a moving vehicle. Failure to take ample pee and potty breaks may result in accidents in the car or health issues associated with the bladder. Frequent breaks also help in preventing car sickness and help dogs in settling down faster for the remaining travel. The amount of pee breaks you would need to take would depend on how often your puppy pees during the day.
Maintaining optimal Health and Hygiene while traveling
Maintaining optimal health and hygiene while traveling with pets require planning in advance and catering to their specific needs. Here’s a ball park list of things and activities to ensure your dog’s physical and mental well being while traveling with them.
- Cleaning supplies
- Poop bags for proper waste disposal
- Pee pads
- Diapers if necessary
- Preparing for accidents
- Cleaning up after your dog
- Keep your dog and their resources clean
- Sanitizing your dog’s essential supplies
- Carrying plenty of food and water
- Clean environment in the car
- Temperature regulation
- Tick and flea prevention
- Regular check ins with your dog to ensure they are comfortable
Ensuring optimal safety for our canine counterparts may require some amount of forethought, planning and research. More so because during the journey, your core focus must be on the drive. A vet check and a go-ahead 10 days prior to the trip and making a trip-essential checklist are important ways to ensure a stress-free and safe travel with your pooch.